How confident are you? You need the confidence to write your way; there are no rules as such. Only what works for you today.
Why not think about how you write, and the “rules” (beliefs, strategies, processes) that matter to you?
To get you started, here are my rules.
Write your way: rules that work for me
- Be honest.
- Be clear.
Let’s look at them in a little more detail.
1. Write, consistently
Nothing happens until you write, consistently.
Consistency is vital. We talked about working memory here. If you don’t work on your projects consistently, they drop out of your working memory and doubts creep in.
For years, I wondered why some of my writing students gave up on perfectly viable projects. Finally, it occurred to me that it wasn’t just because they lacked confidence. It was also because they forgot—they forgot their original inspiration when they stopped working on the project for a few days.
Writing takes time, energy and commitment. When you’re tired, it’s easy to forget why you’re writing and watch a video instead. After a few days away from a project, it drops out of your working memory: you decide the project was rubbish and never return to it.
To succeed, you need consistency. Write.
2. Be honest—it’s challenging
It’s hard to be honest, especially to yourself, and especially in your writing.
Writing with honesty is hard because to do it, you need to recall your failures and disasters. No one likes to feel uncomfortable, so it’s easier to skim the surface. That’s true for both fiction and nonfiction.
Over time, honesty helps you to admit to yourself all those times you were wrong, but believed that you were right. That helps you to grow as a writer.
3. Be clear: clarity is everything
Hate the rules of grammar? The rules help you to write clearly. Without clarity, you’re wasting your time writing.
When you know the rules of grammar, you can break them if you want a special style, or a specific voice in your writing. Grammar checkers can’t help you with that.
If you “hate” grammar, check out my all-time favorite grammar rules book: The Elements of Style. It’s available from Project Gutenberg as a free download.
Reading The Elements of Style will improve your writing.
Here’s an example, 11. Put statements in positive form:
Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language. Use the word “not” as a means of denial or in antithesis, never as a means of evasion.
Write your way: create your own rules
We’re all different. Writers develop their own rules.
I enjoy Elmore Leonard’s rules, especially:
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.